By Ann Marie Foley - 21 December, 2016
ALONE has urged people to visit their elderly neighbours this Christmas.
On Christmas Day, the charity’s volunteers will bring hot Christmas dinners to over 100 older people living on their own.
In the lead-up to Christmas, ALONE has also hosted a social dinner dance that was attended by over 180 older people. Volunteers delivered over 500 hampers with vital supplies to help older people through the Christmas period and, as the charity put it, to bring “a little Christmas magic” into their lives.
“No one should feel alone at Christmas. However, in ALONE we meet many older people who have no one to celebrate this special time of year with. This Christmas we are asking members of the public to check in with their older neighbours,” said Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE.
“We can all be guilty of getting caught up in the build-up to Christmas as we reunite with friends and family, but it is important to remember that many older people have no friends or family to reunite with.”
ALONE suggests that people can help older neighbours this Christmas by calling in to say hello; ensuring they have enough food, medication and heat; bringing them out for a drive or to a social event; or giving them a hand with shopping.
As part of this year’s Christmas Campaign, ALONE is also urging older people not to be afraid to ask for the care and support they are entitled to.
“ALONE’s Christmas Campaign this year is not just about charity, it’s about rights. Older people not only deserve to live with dignity but they have a right to. We want them to know that they have a right to be supported, to receive the care they need and to live in a place of their own choosing,” said Sean Moynihan.
The charity also pointed to the recent National Positive Ageing Indicators Report, which showed that almost a third of people over 50 provide care to a child or grandchild, and over a quarter do volunteer work.
On 5 December, ALONE launched a video showing the positive impact of befriending for older people. In the video older people thank their volunteers who have made a huge difference to their lives.
Margaret has befriended and visited Kathleen for three years.
“Margaret is like a daughter to me,” stated Kathleen, and in turn Margaret said, “every time we meet, we laugh a lot and have great chats.”
In Ireland, one third of older people live alone. Through a weekly volunteer visit and social events, ALONE provides companionship to over 500 older people who are socially isolated.
ALONE stated that befriending services such as its own are a preventative health measure; loneliness can lead to depression, but it is also a predictor for dementia, cardiovascular disease and decreased immune system responsivity.
“Loneliness is twice as dangerous to the health of an older person as obesity, and is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” stated the charity.
Over the winter period, calls to ALONE for support dramatically increase and loneliness is one of the main issues that older people face. ALONE offers supports and services that can link older people back in with their community and neighbours.
ALONE’s most vital area of service provision during the winter months is the Support Coordination service, which deals with emergency calls for assistance as well as longer term supports in ensuring people can age at home with comfort, safety and security.
Established in 1977, ALONE receives no Government funding for day-to-day activities, so relies solely on the generosity of the public to continue its work.
Those who have concerns about their own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person in their community, can call ALONE for help.